Mohammed Bello Abubakar, former permanent secretary, Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Sokoto State, and Abubakar Abdullahi Ahmed, a former deputy director in the ministry, being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on a 43-count charge bordering on conspiracy, forgery and money laundering, were on Wednesday, March 18, 2015 re-arraigned before Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court, Sokoto.
The trial of the two civil servants, who are being prosecuted for evidently living beyond their means (as the extent of their assets is not commensurate with their legitimate source of income), actually began in May 2014.
But in a twist of sorts to what has now become a keenly monitored trial, Justice Aikawa on January 30, 2015 at the last hearing of the case, quashed the proceedings of May 21, 2014 on the grounds that the court foisted counsel on the first and third accused persons, and ruled that the trial begin afresh.
At the resumption of the fresh trial on Wednesday, prosecution witness, Usman Mohammed Mukhtar, an operative with the EFCC, while being led in evidence by the prosecuting counsel, S. K Atteh, told the court that he received a petition against Abubakar, alleging gross abuse of his position to acquire wealth, which he subsequently investigated.
He said, "The petition indicated that he was living a lifestyle not commensurate with his income as a public servant."
The petition was followed up by a discrete investigation, he said, which further exposed various unethical activities by the accused persons.
He added: "During investigation, I identified the second accused person (Ahmed), a director of finance (now retired) in the ministry of environment, Sokoto State, formerly deputy director, ministry of local government and community development, Sokoto; the third accused (Rose Gallery Nigeria Limited) and the fourth accused (Silver Spring Concept) were identified as companies where the first accused (Abubakar) is a director and a signatory to the bank accounts; the fifth accused person (Sitex Multi Service Limited) was a company in which the second accused person is a sole signatory to the bank account, with his wife and children as directors of the company."
Abubakar is alleged to be the owner of five companies - Rose Gallery Nigeria Limited, Silver Spring Concept, Gidadawa Global Ventures, BAG Interiors and Eco Habitat Nigeria Limited, which have various bank accounts through which suspicious transfers were made.
One of the charges read: "That you, Mohammed Bello Abubakar, while being the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry for Local Government and Community Development, Sokoto State; Abubakar Abdullahi Ahmed, while being the Deputy Director for Local Government and Community Development, Sokoto State and Rose Gallery Nigeria Limited, on or about the 6th day of May 2008 at Sokoto Judicial Division of the Federal High Court of Nigeria did collaborate in disguising the illegal origin of the sum of N2,500,000, into Rose Gallery Nigeria Limited's account number 351337760120 with Guaratee Trust Bank Plc and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 14 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004."
The charge reads further: "That you Abubakar Ahmed, while being the Director of Finance, Ministry of Local Government and Community Development, Sokoto State and Sitex Multi Service Limited, on or about the 9th day of September 2009 at the Sokoto Judicial Division of the Federal High Court of Nigeria, did transfer the sum of N69million from Sokoto State Joint Account into Sitex Multi Service Limited account number 0037193066 in Ecobank Plc with the aim of disguising the illicit origin of the said sum of N40,875,754 so as to evade the consequences of your action and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 14 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004."
The court adjourned till March 19, 2015 for continuation of trial.